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Surprise cake

Surprise cake

by Naomi Newton

This cake is quite buttery, however the currants add a nice sweetness to the flavour. It is a very interesting recipe, as I discovered, and comes with its own built-in surprises, as you will see! For this recipe you will need the ingredients listed below.

Black and white printed recipe for 'Surprise Cake'. Text reads: 'Ingredients - 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoonful cream of tartar, few currants, ¾ cup butter. Mode - Mix these together, add 1 teaspoonful carbonate soda in a small cup of milk, 1 egg, well beaten, few drops of essence of lemon, ½ cup of butter (melted), poured in last'.

Source: Home Cookery for Australia: All Tested Recipes, 1913, Arbuckle, Waddell & Fawckner, Melbourne, p135.

Surprise number one: ingredients

And surprise! There are more ingredients than you first thought. The mode includes a lot more ingredients, including an extra 'half a cup of butter (melted), poured in last', on top of the three-quarters of a cup of butter listed first. Luckily I had read through the recipe first, as you do … of course? While mixing the ingredients together, and in the order suggested, I started to realise the quantity of butter that was being asked seemed a bit excessive. I put this thought aside as I prepared the pan and hoped the heat would take care of it.

A cake in a tin rests on a wire cooling rack.

Looks can be deceiving

Thirty minutes in, at 180 degrees, I performed my first skewer test … hmmm, definitely not there yet. Forty minutes in, nope, still very very moist. Fifty minutes in and by this stage the outside of the cake appeared to be cooked just fine, but the centre was like checking your engine for oil … that is if your car runs on bubbling boiling yellow butter! After one hour I took the cake out and turned off my oven, as baking it any further was not going to encourage it to behave.

This picture of the cake as soon as it was removed from the oven, below left, doesn’t look too bad, does it?


A cake in a round tin. The centre of the cake has collapsed.

Surprise number two: collapse

Rest assured however, as surprise, it failed!

This cake did not wish to behave. In the morning all of the butter that had not wanted to be cooked the evening before had absorbed in to the outside of the cake, forming a well in the middle.

I brought it along for morning tea as show and tell and my colleagues were very generous to still try a piece. It wasn't too bad really, just very very buttery.

A cake with a small hole in the centre.

Ring tin to the rescue

The well that had formed in the middle of the first cake got me thinking, 'Would a ring tin work?'.

And surprise! It did and this time it was a success.

I baked the cake a second time with the same amount of butter, and this time it cooked within 40 minutes and no dipstick was required.

The only question begging now is … were there ring tins in 1913? Any takers?



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person that likes CAKE!
06 Aug 2013 7:00pm

i don't think they did have back then 


Glorious Days: Australia 1913 will be on show at the National Museum of Australia from 7 March to 13 October 2013. Costs apply.